Joel will do the business

Joel Tomkins (left) and brother Sam
Joel Tomkins (left) and brother Sam

WIGAN’S England flyer Chris Ashton has no doubts whatsoever that his old pal Joel Tomkins will carve out a successful career in rugby union.

Tomkins completed his £250,000 cross-code switch to Saracens this week and former Warrior Ashton, who himself made the move from rugby league to join Northampton in 2007, is confident that Tomkins will be a star at Vicarage Road.

“Joel’s a good friend of mine. We started together at Wigan when we were 15 so he’s been there a long time and it’s a shame for them to lose him,” said Ashton.

“But he’ll do very well for Saracens. He’ll be just fine.

“Hopefully he’ll be in the England set-up before too long, maybe even just a year.

“He’s quite an intelligent lad compared to myself which might help a bit.

“I’m sure he’s prepared for the length of time it’s going to take for him to change over, but I think he’s perfectly suited for it and he’ll do well.”

Tomkins successfully converted from second row to centre at the Warriors and that is where Ashton expects him to fit in at Saracens where he will join ex-Wigan star Andy Farrell – the club’s first-team coach.

Ashton added: “Centre will be perfect for him, becoming a forward will be too hard. Coming from rugby league, it’s far too complicated for any back I know to become a forward, so I think he’ll be fine at centre.”

The departure of 24-year-old Tomkins came on the same day that the Super League side signed-up his younger brother Sam, 22, on a bumper new deal.

Sam had also been linked with a cross-code switch, but Ashton believes that the full-back was right to ignore a lucrative move to union at this stage in his career, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised to see him switch in the coming years.

He said: “Sam’s done the right thing by staying.

“He’s only 22 and I think he’s best in rugby league at the moment.

“But you never know, in a few years you might see him over here.

“I’d like to think it’s relatively easy for a back to switch and start playing union.

“When he’s 25 or 26 he might make the move.”

GEOFF Lightfoot’s previews of this weekend’s local RU action will appear in tomorrow’s Evening Post. Don’t miss it.